Doctors were able to give Ellie Jones her confidence back after they corrected a facial deformity that meant her jaw had stopped growing at age eight.
She was born with a condition that meant the bones in her lower face did not develop properly and were smaller than they should have been.
But although she knew she needed dental work, Ellie had no idea that it was a congenital facial condition that had caused her teeth alignment problems.
When she went to have braces fitted aged 14, her orthodontist Joy Hickman realised what had happened.
Over the next six years, Joy worked with maxillofacial surgeon Emma Woolley at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Rhyl, Wales, to transform Ellie’s looks and her whole life’s outlook.
She had her first operation at 16. Ellie, who is now 20, said: ‘It was really painful but had to be done to sort the problem.
‘I was on a liquid diet for about a month, which was really hard, and I couldn’t talk properly – I had to use a notepad to communicate.
‘After a while I was able to mumble a few words and I had a lisp for a while due to how swollen my mouth was.’
The major surgery involved cutting her jaws horizontally and vertically, and then having more surgery to her chin a year later.
But despite the pain of the operations, she says she is delighted with the results: ‘I mostly just felt relieved – I finally felt like I could be myself.
‘I was shy but now I feel really confident. It’s changed my whole life.’
Shop assistant Ellie, 20, who lives at home with dad Simon, mum Natalie and sister Chloe, 21, now dreams of being a photographer.
‘A lot of people don’t actually realise they have a jaw deformity and just accept that they have difficulties biting,’ her surgeon Emma said.
‘By not treating it at a young age, it can cause real difficulties later in life.